Where I’ve Been – October/November Edition

Today is a quiet Sunday. I’m alone in the house. The kids are away and Todd went off early to finish a deck, because working 60 hours a week teaching and serving on several committees isn’t enough to keep him busy. I woke at 6:40 this morning, because that’s what it means to be OLD. I know this because my 91-year-old grandmother goes to bed around 6 every night and wakes up at like 4 a.m.

Now my soul is leaping out of bed like a deer, dragging my body out like an F250 dragging roadkill behind it. I can’t stay awake at night anymore, and I’d like to say that it’s okay but recent sarcastic comments from my husband are spoiling my delusions.

Anyway. I got up at 6:40 this morning because my bladder. Another happy development to the process of aging gracefully. But as I am forever the optimist and always counting my blessings, I won’t complain since it could be worse – like the inability to control the timing of the large intestine, which I vigorously pray isn’t hereditary.

So I woke up early on the ONLY day I actually get to sleep in with the worst kind of headache – the kind that hurts far worse when lying down. A half-pot of coffee, two loads of laundry, and another useless attempt to remove adhesive from my kitchen floor later, and I’m trying to convince myself that it’s Sunday and I can skip the housework and treadmill and go back to sleep. It’s hard to maintain the underachiever of the household title. I don’t know why my motivation to get stuff done is higher on weekends, but this is bullshit.

Underachieving aside, since my last Where I’ve Been post Opac’s football season came to an end with a breathtaking 1-9 record. I ran Veruca to softball practice two nights a week and attended all but two games. I have no idea what their record was. V is a born athlete and improved her game and gained unexpected status as a great catcher. She takes the game seriously, got frustrated with the girls who didn’t, and now wants to do travel team next Spring. On that note, her Little League team won the first place title last Spring and she now has a plaque in her name.

Todd and I attended the 16th birthday party of our neighbor’s son – a motorhead of sorts who also loves Mustangs as much as we do. He has a “car show” with a plethora of old cars including his own vintage Mustang and Todd and I drove our collection up there for the occasion. And then there was The Cruise. Everyone jumped in a car and we cruised around our area, ending at an ice cream shop before returning to the party. Three of the girls jumped in the convertible with me and the girl riding shotgun tuned the radio to all sorts of 80s (!!!) music and the three of them were loudly singing along. Fully enjoyed my middle-aged self, even if it was somewhat tempered by my anxiety over the alarming level of the gas tank.

I had multiple fun trips to the dentist last month, which I mentioned before. I had my mammogram, which was also fun because how many body parts can you actually watch flatten down to an inch without passing out?

I’ve been happily working extra days and realized how much I want to not be home on weekdays anymore. A year ago it was a daunting thought – how to go back to work full-time and manage our lives. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to get the part-time job and then put in so many extra days. We made it work. And I’m ready for more.

In true V fashion, Veruca decided she wanted to go to her bff’s neighborhood on Halloween night. Another big Letting Go moment for me. So I dropped her off with her meter and a handful of hard candies, although who was I kidding? I knew she’d be snacking from her newly acquired loot. Her cell phone was fully dead, so she had no phone with which to reach me or I her – another moment of OMG-I’m-going-to-hurt-you. But – I let her go anyway and entrusted her to the higher power.

Meanwhile, back at home, I turned on the porch light and waited. And forgot Sabra, who barked like a ferocious beast safely from two rooms away when the first doorbell rang. I handed out candy to the little girls who were intuitively not afraid of my doggie, and then parked Sabra’s pansy-ass in the bedroom with the door closed. Waiting for trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood is like waiting for water to boil, so I decided after the 3 masked boys (who were no strangers, btw) left that I would just leave the basket on the porch and go sit on the couch. Soon after I heard a ruckus and they were back and, as I watched from the window, rummaged through the candy and took more – but left behind candy from other houses. I had to laugh. At least they left something behind. And admitted to it, on the bus the next morning, to V because they’re all friends.

Opac turned 17 at the end of October. He and I planned to go to New York for the day, but the weather wasn’t very accommodating so we bagged it and went to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Since football season ended he’s been eager to get behind the wheel, he says because he wants senior option next year but I think it also has to do with someone something else.

So Wednesday I sat in the passenger seat while he drove us into town. It was okay. I was okay. Until he approached the left turn back into our development at the breakneck speed of 35 without braking. Apparently Todd heard about it, because I was instructed not to grab onto the door handle “like that” “when your son is driving” because I’ll make him nervous. Fine. Next time I’ll just freak out after he mows down the neighbor’s tree.

Happily, Neph made an appearance on the Sunday after O’s birthday, to bring presents in a bag that he’d accidentally spilled Chinese food in (only Neph, I swear), and then overtook the kitchen like the good old days, fixing himself a pannini from the leftover cold cuts and lox. Got leftovers? Have Neph.

Other things:

Painted the guest room and subsequently developed a sore arm, and soon noticed a large swelling on my elbow. Had an x-ray and guess what? Nothings’ wrong – just minor osteoarthritis. Fuck middle age.

I went back to the chiropractor for an adjustment, thinking my neck is feeling great but something is causing these daily headaches, and now he’s focused on relieving the pain in my elbow.

We had a our annual JDRF fundraiser at the restaurant and I gave my one annual public speech, which this year (I think) went far better than last year’s alcohol-laced debacle, which I thoroughly owned and apologized for this year.

Todd, who loves me more than I sometimes deserve, went over to the place to check out the giant metal chicken I was so excited about, ‘cause he fully intended to bring that bitch home and surprise me when I got home from work. $225. Guess what? She’s not living here.

We had a long overdue date night at Iron Hill Brewery, which was lovely and was also my first drink in nearly 3 months. I was serious about giving up drinking, and I seriously lost 11 pounds to date. Yesterday morning I was down 13 pounds, but that could be blamed on the previous day’s unintentional diet of only fruits and vegetables, which I’m sure was subsequently undone last night at my cousin’s wedding where I decided one glass of the house wine (which turned into more – the tally still under dispute with Todd) wouldn’t hurt, and no doubt caused the monster headache this morning.

But who doesn’t love a wedding? I had a great time. I used Rent the Runway again, another Marchesa Notte, which was lovely but difficult to dance in during “Shout!” The sleeves don’t allow much give in the upward direction so now I have the cocktail dress equivalent of rug burn on my shoulders. I danced the night away with family and friends, including one new friend who proclaimed himself the choreographer of our little circle and soon we were leading the congo line and generally making a fantastic spectacle of ourselves while the millennials sat at their tables looking on like spectators at the zoo. Though I only expected to dance the slow dances with Todd, we had a fantastic time dancing to other songs like a pair of handicapped ballroom dancers.

Thanksgiving is a mere four days away and I forgot to get the turkey out of the freezer until this morning. If you’ve ever bought a frozen turkey, you know that thing is still gonna be frozen on Thursday morning if it hasn’t been in the fridge for at least a week. If there was ever a power outage in July, we could keep the insulin cold for two weeks in a cooler with one frozen turkey.

More to come.

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Skipping Out, While Silverfox Takes Chicago

I took my medication on an empty stomach earlier this week and slept for two hours. Some days it’s a gamble, between high anxiety and being comatose. Really, all I probably need to do is stop drinking coffee. The gamble for the rest of the week was to skip the pills and challenge anxiety to make a comeback. Definitely the better option, for productivity.

The best time to be out in public? First thing in the morning. This is not typically my MO, since I usually spend half a day on the internet before finally getting motivated to jump on the treadmill, do laundry, make the bed, take a shower, do anything. And by then it’s damn near witching hour, when V’s bus is coming and suddenly I realize I’ve done nothing all day. Cue frantic clean up and an ornery mood, because my peace is about to be broken by all the drama of the middle school female species.

I refuse to make excuses now because I actually have a job when I’m not at home. V forgot her gym sneakers the other day and I had to take a shower and get dressed earlier than I’d planned, just to walk into the front office, because I haven’t yet fully embraced the culture of pajamas and slippers. Which, for what’s it’s worth, is so NOT going to happen if it aint happened yet.

The ladies in the front office know me on sight, which I wondered aloud whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. At least I’m never there to bail her out of the slammer.

I utilized this premature entry into the outside world to drop off dry cleaning and pick up milk and detergent at the store. The grocery store is sublime at 8 a.m. No crowds, easy parking. Oh – and fresh donuts. However, the fucking post office doesn’t open until 9 and I got there at 8:45 and had to stand in the vestibule clutching two huge bags for 18 minutes, making small talk with two other women who also didn’t know it wasn’t open yet. Sublime only goes as far as enough coffee and small talk isn’t in my repertoire before 9 on my day off. And then the postal guy didn’t unlock the door until 9:03. Bastard. He knew we were out there and, giddy with power, took his time getting to the door.

This morning, I dropped the dog off at the groomer and stopped at Walmart. While Walmart and sublime do not belong in the same sentence together, I must admit it was quite pleasant. There was no cart rage, and holy shit! No lines. I found 3 of the four items I went in for, but not before I’d sauntered casually through the store like I was on the beach at sunrise.

It’s the end of September and the weather has rivaled that of August, and frankly – this is bullshit. Warm is nice; oppressive with a nuclear mosquito population is a new form of hell. Myself being mosquito bait, the only picnic is the one featuring me as the main course. WTF is up with this venom? I’m still scratching the bites I got over a week ago.

Seriously, the plants don’t even know what to do. Some are still green, and some have just given up. I think the trees have finally just unanimously said fuck it, because they’re dropping leaves like rain today. And – just in case the advent of Fall is ever a question – the stink bugs have suddenly made a very Hitchcockian appearance around the windows and doors of the house.

I hear the weather is cooling down in Chicago, which bodes well for us, I think. Although the weather this morning was cool, breezy, and pleasant. I informed Todd last night that I’m working on indoor projects until conditions improve outside – as if he even cares what I do and don’t do around the house when he’s away. As long as he has clean underwear and gas in the car, he’s a happy boy.

Speaking of Chicago, my dad is there on business and I have barely heard from him, yet he sends pictures that call into question what he’s really doing. He sent me a pic of himself on some stage seated between the Blues Brothers, captioned, “just auditioned.” The next day he sent me a pic of the Iron Throne in an AT&T store on the Magnificent Mile. He took a wrong turn one afternoon and ended up in a LGBTQ neighborhood where he was propositioned twice (hey – they don’t call him Silverfox for nothing). Two days later he’s got a Cubs World Championship ring on the tip of his finger – apparently he met some woman who works for the organization. She was probably trying to pick up Silverfox, but sorry folks – he’s a happily married – and straight – man.

Then, he was tailgating on the lake on Tuesday. If I was a millionaire, I’d fly out there and hang with him for a few days. Then my next blog post I’d call, The Silverfox Chronicles, and people would eat that shit up. Because my dad is funny.

Today is Nephtoo’s birthday and I still haven’t completed his first care package. I’m going with themed packages, and pissed myself off this morning when I realized I should have sent one already, themed, the birthday box. I’ve been doing pretty well at avoiding any Mom-fails, so I guess I was ripe for an Aunt-fail. (I so can hear SOL chastising me at this very moment.) (SOL=Sister Out Law.) (And, if you have to ask, you’re obviously not in the inner circle –which I realize sounds contradictory given the “out law” reference, but shut up already – and therefore are on a need-to-know basis.)

Anyhoo, if I say any more about the care package, it’s likely to ruin the surprise since he occasionally reads this garbage. So with that – I will close with this, from my latest Netflix discovery:

Their devotion showed me there were no versions of love, there was only… Love. That it had no equal and that it was worth searching for, even if that search took a lifetime. ~ Call the Midwife

**Disclaimer: SOL is not an outlaw. She is a law-abiding citizen with terrific offspring and killer bathroom design skills.

Random Thoughts For September

We went shopping at Lowe’s last weekend which was shocking because it was Todd’s idea. Todd had boycotted the store after a debacle there about a year ago. However, Lowe-gate couldn’t hold a candle to an entirely different debacle involving kitchen rugs from Big Lots. Todd’s busy brain took a short detour to kitchen rug replacement on a beautiful Sunday afternoon when we could otherwise have been frolicking in the sunflower fields, but…there we were.

All the Halloween inflatables are set up, so I entertained myself by walking through an inflatable house a few times while Todd looked at snowblowers. There were a couple of little kids looking at me, which made me giggle, and I briefly considered calling boooooo from inside, which took me back to that time at Crystal Cave when my then-stepmom went inside this giant teepee with me and made the Indian war cry before stepping back outside, where she totally deadpan-told these wide-eyed kids that there were real Indians inside.

I have to admit, I’d never considered putting inflatables in my front yard, but the inflatable giant ghost is kinda cool. That is, until I saw the dragon. Dragons are all the rage now, ya’ll. Big Lots had a dragon skeleton that had to be nearly life-sized but was still in the box for $139. If I’d have had the money to blow…. Instead, I’ve got the skeleton cat for $22 on my wish list. I’m hoping it will scare away the stray cats who keep shitting in my gardens.

At least they’re not shitting on my front steps like they did to my neighbor across the street. Although Todd told me that one of them shit on the front tire inside the well on the pickup truck. On the wheel well? How does that happen? That’s gotta require some skill.

Our neighbor hates these strays with a passion normally reserved for ex-wives, and has set up traps around the yards including ours to catch and, he insists, relocate them. He’s gotten so sophisticated he has cameras connected to them that send to his cell so he’ll know instantly what he’s got (in case it’s a family of raccoons – which does happen round here more than you think). It’s been a month and he hasn’t caught one damn cat. I told him they’re smarter than he is which, thankfully, he laughed off, since he is a cop and could potentially arrest me for disrespecting an officer.

Needless to say we didn’t find any rugs, but did find new curtains for the sliders. And I wandered off toward something shiny in the lighting department and suddenly we were buying new lamps for the living room. And then a really happy guy in an electric wheelchair stopped next to us to remind Todd what a beautiful wife he had while I blushed eight shades of red as he sat smiling at us both. Later, I admired the mums outside and some other fall planters. I may go back and buy them but, like anything green that requires water for survival, their fate in my hands is pretty much already predetermined.

OMG, I found a giant metal chicken! I nearly ran off the road looking at it to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating, but it was real and I need this chicken. The Bloggess acquired one several years ago, which was the subject of one of the most hilarious posts I’ve ever read, and I never thought I’d ever want one until I saw it in person. Now I’m on a mission to get it, but I’m making Todd go with me because it’s really big and I might not be able to get it into my car by myself. He said I could buy it. You are all my witnesses. Though he wants to know how much it’s going to cost. Silly man. What could be better than pulling into your driveway and being greeted by this source of enormous joy – the inspiration for knock knock, motherfucker?

I’m addicted to Amazon and Zullily. I think Amazon requires no explanation. Zullily is a dangerous website that sends you daily deals by email, and I’ve already acquired a pair of shoes, a bikini top, and some flip flops. Don’t tell Todd. He already knows about ThredUp and StitchFix.

V asks me every other day to order take-out. I have no idea where she got the impression that this was a thing, but I’m charged with reminding that it aint happening. If it’s not pizza, it’s McDonald’s, or it’s Chinese food – which, by the way, isn’t close. We can order seven – count them, seven – different pizzas just in our own small town, but can’t get a decent piece of sushi without driving a half hour. Sigh. Life in the country.

“We love to eat,” one of the first things I heard on my shadowing day six months ago, and my coworkers have not disappointed. One of them regularly brings in boxes of Tastykakes, someone else deposited exquisite M&M’s ice cream cookie treats in the freezer, and there’s always someone’s birthday to celebrate with loads of potluck items for the pickin. We have parents drop off treats too – like a box of Starbucks coffee and pumpkin cream cheese coffee cakes, and a dad dropped off a giant bag of hot pretzels when he picked up a prescription. The struggle between will power and total abandon is real.

A high school friend posted a link to a 5k happening in less than a month not far from me, and I have seriously considered training for it, just in case my knee holds out. I still have time to register. Like I said, my brain says yes yes, but my knee says, no no!

Meanwhile, back in the hot tub, where we work tediously to perfect the chemicals of a chlorine-free system. Well guess what? Tara wants chlorine. Tara needs chlorine. Certain things in life just require chlorine. I do not want to go about smelling like a musty cellar, and there’s something about this system that’s leaving that impression all over me. I want to smell like chlorine. Trust me, I’ll sleep better at night.

And while we’re on the subject of hot tubbing… don’t ever, EVER try to reenact Sylvester’s Looney Toons’ geyser ride. You’ve been warned, people.

Todd had the audacity to ask me why there was a towel in the spider sanctuary. The spider sanctuary is actually our oversized bathtub in the master bath, which rarely gets used and I guess he was hinting that it’s a bit dusty/cobwebby in there.

I haven’t mentioned to him recently the plague of Lifesavers wrappers I keep finding – in the car, in the driveway, on the floor, on the bedside table, on the bathroom counter… shall I go on? This, while he tells me how dirty my car is, AS IF I have no idea how dirty it is. Really.

To use a recently overheard weirdest expression ever uddered, some days I feel angrier than a mad cow on a bad Monday. That might be an Amish expression, I’m not sure. But, I’ve left Facebook again for self-preservation. It’s faster, and less time consuming, to just remove myself, rather than “hide” every person (on both sides of the political divide, FYI) whose posts are currently bothering me. Recent revelations have taken me to a place inside that is wholly better for me and everyone around me. Let’s hope it lasts.

Miscellaneous tidbits:

There are 206 bones in the adult human body. Opac will say he has 207, because of a broken collar bone, though I believe this to be inaccurate as the break has fused back together.

To stop bleeding on the lip from a razor cut: besides applying pressure, apply ice to constrict blood vessels and slow bleeding. Also, apply chapstick or vaseline. Other pieces of advice include mouthwash (which has gotta burn like hell), or applying deodorant, in which the aluminum chloride can also constrict blood vessels. Add eye drops to that list of blood vessel contricting agents.

The Holiday Living 10.5 ft x 6.6 ft haunted house is $250. Conversely, the 9ft x 11ft dragon is $179. No word yet on the price of the giant metal chicken. I’ll get back to you. The price of my joy = priceless.

The aforementioned Looney Toons episode can be seen here : Sylvester, Tweety and the Geyser.

Current book I’m reading – is still Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins. I took a break from it to read 10 Days in a Madhouse by Nelly Bly, a fast and fascinating read (though surprisingly a lot less thrilling than Asylum) about the real conditions of institutions in the early 20th century, brought to life by the journalist who posed as a patient to get the real skinny on the inside. It was considered a game-changer for mental institutions, yet we all know that the horrors continued for decades and across the country.

Todd and I Do It Again, Part 2

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I woke up the next morning after another relatively early night, and luxuriously shaved my legs with Todd’s razor. Before you make assumptions about me – he told me to, after he shaved his face, because he’s loving like that and not because I’m a selfish bitch.

There was a great deal of noise going on above us, and it didn’t take long to remember the restaurant and bar were directly above us. Like chairs sliding across hardwood floors, vacuuming early in the morning, and then several times at night I heard something drop and roll across the floor – like dropping a marble on a hard surface. WTH was it??

Anyway. Woke up feeling great after 17 miles of bike riding. A little soreness on the bottom, but a hell of a lot less than last year when I couldn’t sit down for 3 days. My left knee, the troublemaker, was aching a bit but okay. We walked the mile to Dumser’s for breakfast again.

It was so hot and the humidity was ridiculous at 9 a.m. We walked hand in hand a bit until our hands got too sweaty, pointing out condos we liked and contemplating what it would cost to buy one with the family to share. The occasional breezes off the ocean that broke between the buildings felt divine.

We spent a couple hours on the beach, people-watching and enjoying the breeze coming off the ocean. I was looking forward to cracking open Another Roadside Attraction, by Tom Robbins. **

We decided to catch an early dinner at Bull on the Beach. The bus driver drove like a bat out of hell and then hit the brakes hard just seconds before the stops. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating that the first stop hurt my neck. As more people boarded, watching their reactions to this ride was pure entertainment. Anyway, we sat at the bar again and shared a roast beef sandwich – delicious! Beef and beer. What could be better?

It was still fairly early, and breezy, and so we decided to play a round of Pirate mini-golf. I got a hole-in-one and I won. I don’t mean to gloat, but I’m doing it, because Todd wins just about everything.

We decided to go sit out on the rooftop bar at the hotel, rather than go out somewhere. We took the elevator to the 8th floor and a rather empty restaurant and bar, and waited nearly four minutes without so much as glance from the waitress adding up her checks right there. Finally, when asked about sitting on the rooftop deck, she said it was “kinda windy” and we’d get “faster service if [we] went to the bar.” Which turned out not to be true, since the bartender couldn’t be bothered to take an order from us. There were exactly eight people in the bar.

But the good news is that we discovered the source of the falling sounds – a wooden shuffleboard game using little metal balls, and it’s directly above our room – and we ended up walking out and discovering a better place to have drinks.

Ropewalk, a popular restaurant on the bay with long tables, comfortable seating around fire pits, cocktail tables along the water, and two empty seats at one of the bars for Todd and me. Great bartender and great drinks! Probably drank more than necessary.

Thursday

We got up to watch the sunrise on the beach, as we did last year. We skipped breakfast and just had coffee in the room, hopped the bikes and went to see Holly for lunch. I ordered a Greek salad and slice of pizza that was so good I could’ve eaten the whole pizza. My knee was acting up, alternately clicking and aching, but we continued to ride.

We had dinner at Higgins Crab House down on 28th. I had a crab cake that was loaded with shell. And when I say shell, I mean shell. As in. Every. Single. Bite. The waiter offered to get me a new one, but I wasn’t interested in eating crab cakes anymore. I ate the fries and the coleslaw it came with, while he disappeared to talk to the manager. He came back and told us he’d take the charge off the bill, and then picked up my plate while I was eating the fries and took it away.

Todd suggested we walk the boardwalk, but by this time I was in crippling pain from my left hip to my knee to my ankle. It was excruciating and difficult to walk, so we took the bus down to the inlet. I stopped in the restroom there before we got on the boardwalk and discovered the cause of my lower back pain and thank God there was one thing I always have with me.

I hobbled beside Todd like an invalid as we passed through a thickly crowded area on the boardwalk around Thrasher’s fries and Kohr’s ice cream, and all of sudden something hit the top of my head like an atomic bomb. It happened so fast I ducked my head from the impact and O.M.G. A fucking seagull shit right on the top of my head. Out of 300 people. Fuckers.

Todd cleaned up the top of my head and was careful not to crack a smile, and we pressed on even though I was so pissed all I wanted to do was go back to the hotel and take a shower. About four or five blocks later I started to lighten up. We stopped at the Brass Balls, snagged a table on the boardwalk, and ordered two frozen concoctions and a plate of nachos and all was well with the world again. Great waiter!

Last Day

Todd impatiently decided to start loading up the car while I was still getting myself together for check-out, and at some point I realized he’d been gone a while. He came back and told me he’d dropped the box containing the coffee maker, mugs, some glass purchases we’d made, and the magnum of wine we’d never opened. Everything survived the fall except the wine, which exploded on impact. The car smelled like a winery all the way home.

We went to breakfast at the Dough Roller on the boardwalk, since we’d bought some artwork the night before and had to pick it up. I ordered a western omelet that I could not request without tomatoes; the alternative was to “customize” one with all the same ingredients minus the tomatoes that would cost two dollars more than the western. Bullshit.

Todd became edgy shortly after this couple was seated behind us and said we’d have to move tables because the woman had “nervous leg syndrome” and she was shaking the bench their backs shared. I offered to switch sides with him, figuring I have a higher level of tolerance than he does, but damn girl! After the last 24 hours, all I could do was laugh.

The last stops made: a candy shop for peanut butter fudge and one caramel apple for Miss Veruca, the art shop where our paintings were waiting, and Fischer’s Popcorn. And homeward bound.

** For the uninitiated, Tom Robbins is one of a kind. I highly recommend starting with Jitterbug Perfume (my all-time favorite), or Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates.

Todd and I Do It Again

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The truth is, we do it every year. Sometimes several times a year.

We went on vacation, and returned to Ocean City, Maryland a couple of weeks ago. We rolled in late afternoon on a Monday, checked into our 7th floor room (remember this detail – it figures in later) at last year’s hotel which – by the way – is nothing special but the rooms are upgraded and clean and affordable. We got the last parking spot under cover and left the car there until the day we checked out.

We met my longtime friend Holly and her husband for dinner on the boardwalk. Afterward we walked the boardwalk a short distance to the Old Time Photo place, where Holly and I recreated the Flashback photo we had done in Wildwood several decades ago.

Holly and I giggled through the entire thing, from breath-stealing corsets to our middle-aged climb up to the top of the bar (we were saloon girls), to the stiff posture we had to hold while they snapped photos. It was a LOT easier when we were 15. The staff was terrific, referring to the original often to get it exactly right, and never missed a beat with helping us old broads up and down from the bar top.

We grabbed one of the last tables outside at Shenanigans for dinner. The evening weather was perfect. I had a margarita and then a Dogfish 60, which was all I needed. I’m not much for drinking these days. We were back in the room by 11, with me falling asleep on Todd’s shoulder as we watched Merlin on Netflix. So this is what middle-age looks like. Unencumbered by little children, we’re still asleep before midnight.

Tuesday

We decided to walk to breakfast at Dumser’s Dairyland, which was about a mile walk. The omelets are killer. I had my favorite, a spinach, mushroom, and feta omelet and Todd had a meat-filled omelet. Home fries were perfect and toast soaked in butter – a cardiac patient’s delight – and I’m not sorry. Dumser’s has been around since 1939 and still retains the charm of yesteryear.

We stopped at Sunsations – a chain-mecca of all things beachy – on the walk back to buy sunscreen and a hat for me, since all the errands and leisurely time spent before we drove down didn’t afford me a memory for necessities. I also forgot soap (which Todd had thankfully packed) and a razor, so I’m currently growing leg hair until I can get to a CVS.

Todd bought me a new gel seat for my bike and installed it before we came down, hoping it would ease the pain of sitting down after a long ride. Well, he was partially right. More on that later.

We took the bikes out and rode down to the boardwalk at 1st Street – our friend Jonathan told us to grab a slice and a beer at Tony’s Pizza for him. The humidity and the sun were tough on the ride, and we both wore the wrong shirts, and so arrived soaked to the skin in sweat. I don’t mind sweat when I’m working out, but it’s a whole ‘nother story when I’m sitting down on a vinyl seat in a restaurant.

The pizza slices were old (translation: not fresh) and neither of us wanted a beer at this point (sorry Jonathan). I had a birch beer instead – a childhood favorite – which was ice-cold and delicious, and we split a Caesar salad. I’ve never had a Caesar salad that was covered in bacon bits and onions, but it was good, so whatever. Our waitress, who was pretty much par for the course in this overcrowded beach town, disappeared for long periods of time and at the end we waited and waited for her to return just so we could ask for a check. It seems unfortunate somehow, but every experience we have either rules out a repeat visit, or gets added to the favorites list.

We walked the boards and stopped in a shop to buy a couple of dry shirts. Todd bought a tank and changed on the boardwalk, because he’s a guy and can do that. I chose not to change – a) because there was nowhere to change and I’m not getting arrested at 48 and b) I knew I’d just soak through that one too.

On the ride back we stopped at Bull on the Beach for a beer. It was early enough that there were several open seats at the rectangular bar. The a/c felt divine and I made my way to the restroom intending to change my shirt. I peeled it off and then realized, duh, my bra was soaked too. And then it dawned on me that the bra would just make wet circles on the dry t-shirt, which is way worse than just sitting in a wet t-shirt, and I couldn’t exactly take my bra off because no one wants to see that. Well, maybe the group of middle-aged men doing shots on the other side of the bar, but my husband isn’t so far gone from his tough guy days so – bad idea. So I had to put that wet shirt back on. I looked around for one of those air dryers, because I was seriously going to try to dry myself somewhat (hey – Madonna did it), but this place doesn’t have those.

Back at the bar I ordered an IPA – it seems you’re not getting too many craft choices anywhere and so I had a pint of Dogfish to Todd’s Guinness – and Todd ordered wings, which were really good. The bartenders were really friendly – which was a big plus because many of the patrons seemed like regulars and we weren’t treated any differently.

Dinner was planned later for Mackey’s, strategically around sunset, and I insisted we wait for an outside, on the water, table and we weren’t disappointed. We got a front row table to the sunset which, although cloudy and not as spectacular as sunsets past, was still beautiful and tranquil even with children playing in the water nearby.

They always play God Bless America at sunset, and this year it seemed more poignant than ever.

 

Cabo San Lucas – The End

Chapter 3

January 19, 1991  Sábado

My baja California trip is over. I’m sitting now in the Phoenix airport, sometime around 5 p.m. Only SEVEN hours until I board my next flight – to Philadelphia. Customs went okay – not quite as bad as Greece was. I thought I’d found the perfect spot to plant myself – game room, snack bar, lounge, Haagan Daas, gift shop – until the snack bar closed. At five o’clock. Mom would stow her bags and venture out into Phoenix. I thought about it for a split second, but I’m way too hungover.

I was awakened this morning at the ungodly hour of 7:30, from another bizarre dream, by the ever crowing rooster, a pesky mosquito that tried to fly up my nose, and a need for the bathroom. A couple of old Mexican women came by later, selling Bibles door to door. I don’t know if the Bibles are in English though.

Yesterday Mom and I went shopping and I bought a silver bracelet and a pair of earrings. We ate lunch afterward at the Giggling Marlin, which is probably my favorite place. Mom ordered a Mexican coffee, and when I took a sip something flew up the straw and into my mouth. A fucking fly!! She said I went white, and both she and the waitress had a big laugh at my expense for swallowing a “mosca!” It was NOT funny.

We walked around town a bit and stopped at the Rio Grill. We were having a good time, drinking cerveza (lots of cerveza), a live band started to play, and we ended up making new friends. Kelly, about my age, was a tall, model-like blonde who was super nice.  John was a 40-ish retired boatman from Southern Cal who really liked mom a lot. He introduced me to Eric, 24 and very very cute, who he himself had just met that day. Eric told me he was from Montreal, traveling around.

The four of us decided to go to Squid Roe to party some more. John was a trip! Eric and I danced forever, cervezas in hand. John said he’d introduce me to Tico Torres, who was there, though it never happened. Finally left there sometime around 3 and, suddenly hungry, mom and I bought these killer hamburgers from a food vendor right outside the bar. I tallied my drinks and it amounted to about a half-case of beer.

Which is why I’m sitting in the Phoenix airport now, horribly hung over and trembling from dehydration, sporting shorts, a minor tan, and my motorcycle jacket and wishing I didn’t have over 6 hours left until I can board some plane that will only take me as far as Philly. Then I have to figure out how to get to 30th Street Station before dawn to catch the train that will take me home to New York. I’ll finally be home, just 18 hours from now.

It was a great trip though. Anything but a tourist trap, it was charming in its simplicity and the lack of obnoxious crowds. Cabo is the antithesis of Cancun, the only other Mexico destination I have to compare it with. It’s like night and day. They’re building this enormous luxury hotel on Boulevard Marina (the main street running through town), currently just a shell, and it makes me wonder how these high rise hotels will change this sleepy little town.

Cabo San Lucas – Chapter 2

Chapter 1

Two days later.

I didn’t feel too hot on the flight to San Jose del Cabo and there was this very strange man sitting next to me, and then he was on the same bus to Cabo San Lucas. Gave me the creeps. It was dark when I arrived so I didn’t see much, and of course I was flooded with anxiety that mom wouldn’t be at the bus station when I arrived.

We go to bed really early here – like between 8 and 9:30 and get up about those same hours in the morning. Twelve hours of sleep! It’s actually much cooler than I expected. We sleep with our mass of blankets and in the same clothing we sleep in at home this time of year. However, during the day the sun is quite hot.

The house is nice – it’s not a luxury villa, but more like a home we’d actually live in if we lived here. It’s roomy, with high ceilings, but not too large for us. We each have our own bedroom. There are tiled floors throughout. The living room is cozy; waist-high shelves run the length of one wall and are filled with books. The kitchen, to the right of the living room, has everything you need to prepare your own meals. We share a large bathroom which, lucky me, is right next to my bedroom. There’s a patio off the kitchen with a charcoal grill, and chairs for sitting.

We walked into town yesterday and had lunch at the Giggling Marlin. I had this killer chicken burrito. We shared an order of french fries. Mom had soup and a margarita. I hear they’re exceptionally strong here. One is enough to put you eye level with the table.

We walked around after lunch and saw some incredible hotels, some under construction, found an open-air market with silver jewelry and tableware. Everything is pretty cheap here. Right now it’s about 3,000 pesos to the dollar, which sounds like a lot – especially when you’re buying orange juice for 8,500 pesos. We also went to the supermercado for food.

The village is cute. Small, but cute. Very quiet. Not crowded. Nothing like the “other” Mexico I’ve been to (Cancun). Everything is dirt here – practically no paved roads – so there is a thin brown dust that coats everything. Wipe off any plates or glassware on the restaurants’ tables. There are scruffy dogs that lie in the dirt everywhere, outside the restaurants, in the streets – and in the heat of the day. Makes you wonder, are they dead or alive?

As we made our way back to the house on one of the side streets, a huge truck full of day laborers rumbled by, blasting I’ve Got the Power. This struck me funnier than anything I’d seen so far. These trucks come and pick the men up every morning at a location just down the street from our house. Dozens of them waiting, pile into the back of an enormous truck. In the late afternoon, they return, dusty and sweaty and dirty. They, unlike their American counterparts, are polite and friendly, not catcalling balls of testosterone.

We met two guys on the way – one from British Columbia and the other from Sacramento – who’ve been living here for several months. They helped carry our groceries back and talked for a bit longer. I don’t know how they knew each other, but this place is sorta like that. People just come and hang and get lost.

The bugs here are abundant, and everywhere. We have teeny tiny ants here and there and various flying insects. And, since I’m mosquito bait, you can well imagine I’m starting to look like a malaria victim. And they itch like hell…

The man who owns this house left a guest log for everyone who stays here to write in. It is hands-down one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. There are hilarious anecdotes, stories, a lot of drunken reports, and advice about the house, the people, the town, and even the car. Yes, the house comes with a car, and there are various accounts of it in the book; however, it broke down on mom’s way to pick me up and we won’t get it back until tomorrow. Walking is nice, but unlike New York, it loses its appeal after a few days.

One entry was a list of dos and don’ts titled, Uptonian Advice for Good Times in Cabo (or, “safety hints”). To give credit where credit is due, his name was John Upton, and was entered in the log between May 12 and May 18, 1990:

X marks the spot

Fat cats from hell bite – beware

Beach cruisers and tequila equal pain

Avoid security force at Sol Mar Hotel, especially when naked

Stay off the roof – you’ll know soon enough. Have a beer.

Bacardi stings less than alcohol and cleans a cut just as good

Never turn your back on a wave, especially at 3 a.m.

Giggling Marlins also swallow (Have absolutely no idea what this means, and don’t think I want to)

Don’t take any money with you to Blandro because after a few shots and beers you may be tempted to spend it.

Run! if you hear a local mumble something like “seestir.”
Seems like sound advice, while raising a few more questions. A lot of entries mentioned the proliferation of wild dreams, blaming it on the environment, desert sun, and unadulterated tequila. I myself have had more than a fair share of trips down the rabbit hole in my sleep.

Last night I dreamed that I caused an argument with this girl and her mother and then the girl came back to kill me. And she almost did before I woke up. Fell back to sleep again and was running through Central Park with Sam, something about showing him the scenic route, and then suddenly I was at the mall with E who was looking for a sweater she wanted that was actually pretty ugly, and then I woke up again with a terrible pain in my stomach because I had to pee.

*****

About 9 p.m. now, although I don’t really have a clue of what time it really is. We started to cook dinner around 7:30 – fired up the little grill outside on the back patio and grilled Mom’s marinated chicken breasts and ate them with a small salad. It must be the weather – I don’t feel very hungry here.

 

Cabo San Lucas – Chapter 1

January 11, 1991

It’s not quite 8 a.m. yet. I’ve been up since five. I’m on the plane to Pittsburgh, ready for takeoff. I’m not quite as nervous as I thought I would be, although this is only the beginning of a long trip which won’t end until twelve hours from now. We’re expecting 3-6 inches of snow here in Philly, though looking out my window now I don’t see any flakes. The sky is gray and white.

*****

In the Pittsburgh airport now, waiting to board my next plane. Interesting group of people on this plane. This is flight 9 to Phoenix. Arizona. I’ve never been anywhere near Arizona.

I love the feeling of the plane when it takes off – racing down the runway, thrusting your body against the seat. The chair absorbs you, cradles you. The flight attendant is handing out blankets. Blankets. I’m sweating. It’s raining lightly here in Pittsburgh, with a little slush on the runway. My hands are trembling from that coffee I had back in Philly.

Hello Pilot! He’s talking to us now, in that slow droning voice that sounds like he’s been smoking weed in the lounge. They have television monitors for instructions – too funny! I’ve never seen anything like this. Some people are cracking up.

*****

Later…

The pilot just informed us we are directly over Kansas. You should see the ground below. It’s amazing – looks like a giant marble floor. Or a marble chess board. Sam would like that. He’s asked me a dozen times already if I play chess, and my answer never changes. He wanted me to go skiing over break. Does he even remember that I don’t ski?

This past week I was sick, and only got sicker, which prompted me to go to the doctor. Who looked in my ears, nose, and throat, and told me I had a minor sinus infection. The inside of my nose is “pretty irritated,” he said, LIKE I didn’t know that already. It’s fuckin raw is what it is! I had a nosebleed in New York, which I forgot about but then why the hell would I want to remember that?

I had lunch with E yesterday at Ridgley’s. Everybody turned and stared when we walked in. I guess they’ve never seen a motorcycle jacket before. I had forgotten my tissues before leaving the house, so I had to carry my roll of toilet paper in from my car. The waitress looks at it and then asks me did I carry that in with me? It’s a goddamned roll of toilet paper, freaking Scott tissue which is what – 25 cents a roll? I thought E was going to wet herself.

*****

I’m sitting now in the Phoenix airport, and I just figured out why my hand is shaking. My bag is so heavy that it’s hurting my hand, which is all red and swollen. My arm is killing me. I don’t really feel like exploring right now. The headset from the in-flight movie gave me a headache, that I know isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s about 1:30 and I have six more hours on this God-forsaken trip before I actually get where the hell I’m going. At least three more, before I can board my last plane.

Arizona looks beautiful – when we began our descent, the view was just exquisite. Rolling mountains and valleys. Really incredible shades of color – soft browns turning darker, little green peaks, I even spotted a snow-capped mountain in the distance.

I’m sitting near an escalator and two workmen just walked by. The one says to the other, “see this? You’re gonna like this. Sal just oiled that thing up.” A lot of men around here remind me of Jose. Which is funny. Just wait til I get to Mexico.

I was sweating like a whore in church, so I ran to the bathroom and changed my shirt. Wild fuckin bathrooms – the toilets flush themselves. It’s bizarre. I just stood up and was looking for a way to flush the toilet and all of a sudden it’s like the psycho thing read my mind. Scared the shit out of me. And get this, the faucets are all automatic too. Welcome to the future.

*****

Soldiers! Everywhere. I walked down this corridor to my gate and passed dozens of them, likely being deployed to Saudi Arabia. Young too – at least, they looked younger than me. A certain sadness fell over me, as I considered where they were going and the fact that some may not return. Uncomfortable and feeling helpless, I averted my eyes from most of them. I heard something about sending more troops. Christ. Are there any left? I think they started calling in the Reserves now. Saddam Hussein’s deadline is January 15.

I have no idea what time it is, only that it has to be somewhere near four. My gate has just been changed to B7, two gates away, so I had to pick up this incredible load and move. Up until now there were only two old couples waiting with me. Now there’s many more people. They’re all showing up now, and the board still says “Omaha,” so they’re all wondering if it’s the right gate.

 

Red Cups and BK and Bud Lite, Oh My! — A Cycling Tour Through Rural America

giphy-downsized (2)

Todd and I have taken up riding again, in a last ditch effort to get fit and lose weight before we just give up and lie on the couch drinking beer and watching Family Feud. So far we’ve had two rides – the first was a 13.6-mile cycle around our town, and the second almost 9-mile was a grueling hilly ride.

Twice my chain came off because it’s my bike and I shifted down too far. The next thing I know I’m spinning my wheels in place like a stationary bike, except this bike isn’t made for that and I was on a hill going nowhere and about to fall over.

Todd performed the first fix. He rides in front of me because apparently I’m too slow for him so the second time he was already at the top of the hill and I whispered fuck! before I decided to fix it myself. Check another item off the bucket list I haven’t made yet.

After spending so many years running and then struggling to run with injuries, cycling is a welcome change. Same satisfaction, less stress on the joints. Plus you can get places. We live in the country so there’s no shortage of beautiful scenery – green acres and rolling landscapes, farms and old houses, new houses and historic places.

A country ride is full of fresh air and the wind rushing past your ears, the call of birds, buzzing insects, the smell of cut grass, the occasional monstrous new home rising starkly against the back drop of quaint ranchers and old farmhouses, and… dogs. The roads are just wide enough for two cars and there’s always some asshole in a monster truck whipping by, close enough to feel the heat of the exhaust.

There’s no shortage of Bud Lite bottles. I could count a case from my house out and back. Empty BK and McDonald’s containers, which makes absolutely no sense to me since there are no stores around these roads.  One can only assume these were thrown out the window on the way home. Really? Can’t wait to get home and put it in the garbage can? At least I find a trash can for the contraband, losing the evidence before I get home so no one knows. (For the record, dumping the bags before I get home never works anyway. Veruca has the nose of a bloodhound and Todd insists the odor lives in the car’s interior fibers.)

An entire newspaper was spread over the front border of someone’s lawn. I saw a pair of work gloves (several yards from each other), a shoe (why is there always just one shoe?), a shirt (don’t even want to know), car parts (in rural America, this is par for the course).

Timing of the ride is everything, depending on which way the wind is blowing, the smell of manure or some other fertilizer slaps you in the face – the assault on the senses most unwelcome. No matter growing up in the country, and living around farms for the last several years – I’ve never, ever gotten used to the smell.

Otherwise, there are hundreds of photo-worthy sites… old schoolhouses and dilapidated old buildings, rusty old farming equipment, crumbling stone walls, even the dozens of foreclosures seen around the area – and yes, sadly, there are many – lend their own interest in the overgrown green around them, the dusty and darkened windows, the mystery of who lived there and what happened to them.

The rural bike ride is both athletic and leisurely – the burn in your legs as you push up the steepest hill, the thrill of a brakeless run down the opposite side. It is peaceful and introspective, even as you share it with someone. The lingering danger of riding on any roadway where strangers must be trusted to pay attention and not to be texting, or worse – intoxicated – is ever present, as well as the dogs defending life and property. It is triumphant – as you coast into your driveway knowing that you set out to accomplish a goal and you did it. Even better when you can do it with your better half – strengthening the bond and connection with shared experiences.

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Stone stairs to nowhere

Photo copyright TKA and The Tara Chronicles, 2017

 

The Weekend, Food, and the Apocalypse

The 4th of July weekend, they call it, even though the 4th doesn’t actually fall on a weekend this year, but is in fact on Tuesday. But the fireworks and explosives junkies don’t let a little detail like that derail their plans to blow shit up and generally disturb whole neighborhoods and animals alike. FIVE days of fireworks in my neighborhood.

I am fairly certain the new residents of the only house that was still for sale were responsible for the majority of them, which doesn’t bode well for our community or their reputation. The former residents’ three boys earned a reputation for illegal and occasionally dangerous shenanigans. When they finally moved away, even the trees breathed a sigh of relief.

Anyway. I picked the kids up Monday morning with plans to go to my dad’s for the day. It wasn’t even 9 a.m. yet, so I went to my mom’s to pick up Todd’s table saw – that he’d left in her driveway on Friday. Just drove away and forgot it. We hung out with mom for a bit and the neighbor’s little Shih Tzu came over – the cutest little thing ever who might be cuter if she actually gave a shit about anything but treats. Veruca gave her a piece of Pupperoni and a whole one to Moses, my mom’s Great Pyrenees, which he held in his mouth like a cigarette and little Tessie hopped over to him and brazenly bit the end off of it.

We left mom’s and picked up hoagies at Wawa for later, and then went to McDonald’s for breakfast. Opac and I were hungry; Veruca had had breakfast before I picked her up but she was suddenly hungry again and stepped up to order her food: hot cakes and hash browns with a Mocha Frappaccino. It would seem that Todd’s luck with food places of any kind is wearing off on V – they made her the wrong drink but caught it before handing it over, and then she found a hair in her hot cakes which I’m fairly sure belonged to Tessie the Shih Tzu.

I watched the employee who made the first coffee drink lose her shit behind the counter and throw her cap down on top of the bagging station, which – I don’t know – seems like some sort of health code violation, all because the other woman told her the drink was wrong. She stalked around the counter and later out by the drink station, still hatless, bitching to some guy standing with her about I-don’t-know-and-don’t-want-to-know-what. She was angry. And big. And made eye contact with me in the midst of her rant, which somehow made me feel more uncomfortable than I like to be, that early in the morning.

Meanwhile, back at the pool, the three of us swam for an hour or so, played “colors” and some saturated Nerf football. We took a break for lunch, where V discovered that the hoagie she ordered had lettuce and onions on it and OH MY GOD they ruined it and now she can’t eat it. Really, though – HOW does one screw up an order when one is reading the order from a screen???

My wayward brother returned around that time and gladly took the poisoned hoagie. I unclogged the downstairs toilet because apparently kids can clog toilets anywhere. Dad came outside and we chatted for almost an hour, which was wonderful since with his work and so much traveling we haven’t seen each other in months, except for Father’s Day. He and stepmom just returned from Cabo. We compared our experiences since I was there long before there were luxury hotels and condos, possibly even predating the drug cartels.

Yesterday, on the actual 4th, Todd and I took my mom and the kids to the place on the water we’d gone to two days earlier. It was crowded but we got a table on the deck under cover, and enjoyed steamed clams, shrimp, crabcakes, double cheeseburgers and chicken fingers and fries. Opac ordered crabby fries too – French fries smothered in crab dip and melted cheese – which Todd was keen to try until it was delivered to the table with chopped tomatoes on top. (Reminder: he’s allergic. Reminder: shit like this happens every time he goes out.) We got a replacement because WHO puts chopped tomatoes on cheese fries, and our server was awesome and brought us one right away.

It was breezy and warm there by the water, until the sky opened up and folks were scattering to get under cover and away from the sides where the rain drizzled down over tables. We were fortunate to be seated in the middle. Still had a view, but it was very dry. Well, dry but for the sweating margaritas and a frozen one that took a nosedive onto my feet under the table.

No 4th of July is complete without a round of Clue (it was Peacock in the bedroom with a dagger, by the way) and comforting the two dogs during the apocalypse of fireworks coming from every direction. I’m telling you seriously, not one creature, great or small was spared. Even the frogs were hollering.